Sayed Parwez Kaambakhsh, age 23, was sentenced to death on Tuesday by a three-judge panel in the northern Afghanistan city of Mazar i-Sharif for distributing a report he downloaded from the Internet that came from journalism students at Baikh University. The article said men and women should be equal under Islam and asked why men can have four wives but women can’t have multiple husbands. The judges claimed the article insulted the Muslim religion. Of course, for many non-Muslims, it is a question in our minds. Why only one sex with this opportunity?
Jean MacKenzie, country director for the Institute for war and Peace Reporting, which trains Afghan journalists, insists the decision has nothing to do with the article, but is designed to exert pressure on Parwez’s rother Yaquib, who has done hard-hitting reporting on abuses by powerful commanders in Baikh and other northern provinces. Muslim clerics are supporting the decision which apparently is their effort to remain in the good graces of local warlords and petty tyrants.
American reporting concerning Afghanistan most often deals with the Taliban or insurgents and rarely focuses on the failure of Western efforts to create conditions of freedom in the nation. The smoke screen of punishing a person who poses questions raises questions about how clerics confront their own religion. Are they interested only in answers rather than questions? Isn’t the purpose of religion to get one questioning the meaning of human existence?